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Friday, November 20, 2015

A quick mud map of death search resources in Victoria, Australia

Need to knock some relatives from Victoria, Australia off your tree? 
These are the online sources I most frequently use to find deaths in Victoria.

Birth, death and marriage registrations:
Now free to search the indexes! If you find the one you want you can pay to download an image.

Electoral rolls:
Use the electoral rolls to find out the person’s full name, where they lived, and when they disappeared from the roll (could be when they died).

Death notices:

Wills and Probate:

In some cases you will find burial records, in some you will find headstone information. If you can, get both.

I can’t cover every cemetery, but generally speaking…

  • Google “Cemetery near place, Victoria” where ‘place’ is where the person lived.
  • Look for cemeteries on Australian Cemeteries. It has links to online databases, headstone images sites or contact details for each cemetery.

Burial registers

Some of the bigger search sites in metropolitan areas that cover multiple cemeteries are:


Headstone lists (photos available on request) for many cemeteries outside of metropolitan areas can be found on Carol's Headstone Photographs.

BillionGraves has enough coverage of Victoria that it’s worth trying.


Good luck!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

FindMyPast frustration: Metadata madness

I’m trying extract the answer to a simple question from FindMyPast.

In short: I want to know what directories are included in their Victorian Directories record set. In 2012 there was a list on the site. Now there isn’t.

They replied courteously and promptly to my initial message. I’m not sure they actually read the question. They provided me with a link to the Victorian Directories search page.

I can forgive that. I replied and told them that the link did not have the information I asked for. It gave the name of one directory only. I pointed out that there were more directories in the record set than just that one.

I received a courteous and reasonably prompt reply signed by a different name. They explained to me that the link I had been provided could be used for searching Victorian Directories, reiterated that this one directory was included, and provided some additional blurb about the directory.

I realise that my timing may be bad, with the release of a big new data set. But still….

Now I’m trying to work out how to reply. Meanwhile, I shall vent.

My thoughts on not having a list of inclusions:

  • It’s bad form for any data manager. Bad data manager! Really, the data custodians who are entrusting them with the digital presentation of their data should give them a smack and tell them to do better.
  • It’s poor customer service. We want to know what we’re paying for.
  • It demonstrates a lack of understanding of a genealogist’s needs. We need to know what records we have searched. We need to know if the nil result we came up with was because the person wasn’t listed in the directory, or if the record wasn’t there.* The interpretation is very different!
  • Poor data management warns of poor quality control. I’m not convinced that all of the directories that should be there (assuming it hasn’t changed too much since 2012) are on the site.
  • It is not possible for a user to check the data quality – and we need to. See point above. Last year I found that I wasn’t getting the results I expected from the Merchant Seamen collection because two series that were supposed to be in the site were missing entirely. Hundreds of thousands of records from The National Archives were simply not there.
    That one directory they mentioned sounds like a great resource. What a pity it was never among the results returned.

Next steps:

  • Work out what I could realistically achieve by writing back again.
  • Write a reply framed with those goals in mind.

I also wonder what is the best way to provide feedback to FindMyPast about metadata and search issues, in a way that will be heard. I can’t imagine that this sort of feedback actually goes anywhere via the help email given the responses I’ve had to this and other questions I’ve asked.



* We also need to be able to find out if the record didn’t come up in the search results because it was spelled differently, mistranscribed, the page was gone, or it was unreadable. We need to be able to browse our way to the page and take a look! But that’s a search interface issue rather than a metadata issue. Today my vent is about metadata.